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Russ Kendall's Smokehouse

149 Scenic Highway 61
Knife River  Minnesota  55609
United States
(218) 834-5995
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Midwest Living Review

Berit Thorkelson
Lackluster service and less-than-tender fish are enough to make us bypass this longtime North Shore staple, despite the cool ambience.

We figured they must know what they’re doing; after all, they’ve been slow-smoking fish at this shabby little hole in the wall on Scenic Highway 61 since 1908. Russ’ grandson fires up the smoker these days, putting his inherited skills to use on trout, herring, whitefish and other Lake Superior swimmers, as well as salmon (imported from Alaska) and meat.

It’s too bad the rest of the staff isn’t as dedicated to providing good service. We love the trout spread, but on our most recent visit, the woman behind the counter said she hadn’t had time to make any, which was a shame considering the trout spread is a popular menu item and a big reason folks come.

The interior isn't anything fancy—paneled in wood with old photos and taxidermied catches on the walls. A massive white vintage display case contains smoked fish in regular and brown sugar-cured varieties or worked into creamy spreads (if they’ve gotten around to whipping up a batch, that is). Minnesota wild rice, Wisconsin cheese, and a smattering of touristy shot glasses, mugs and T-shirts round out the offerings. 

Customers can order food to go or pull a Minnesota-brewed Premium off a six-pack and enjoy their meals in the connected dining space, formerly a bar. However, because of the missing trout spread, and the fact that the sugar-cured trout we tried was tough and dry, we’ll probably head north to Lou’s next time instead.

Visited: 
June 16, 2012

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